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Hotel Partner - How The Berkeley staffs hospitality's frontline

This Hotel Partner episode explores how The Berkeley addresses recruitment and staffing on hospitality's frontline. We are joined by Steven Driscoll, Restaurant Operations Manager, The Berkeley and Florent Malbranche, CEO, brigad.co Brigad raised €35M to help industries tackle the staffing crisis and in 2022 supported 200,000 missions by more than 15,000 qualified self-employed professionals in 10,000 user establishments. Working in partnership, The Berkeley, located in Knightsbridge, is a leading 5* hotel in London, the epitome of modern British luxury with Michelin-starred dining, award-winning cocktails, a rooftop pool, secret garden and luxury Spa. The team won ‘best themed afternoon tea’ 2023 in UK from Afternoon Tea Awards. Steven oversees 200 staff across hospitality food beverage. In this conversation we cover:

  • Addressing challenges in hotel staff recruitment

  • Being flexible around staffing and skills requirements

  • Meeting demand and guest expectations

  • How recruitment is changing

  • The 3 things that makes hospitality attractive to work in

  • Making a more attractive hospitality in which to work


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Programme Notes


Ryan Haynes:

Hello and Welcome, To Travel Market Life. This is part of the Mini series, looking at Staffing and recruitment. Today we're looking at how to address recruitment and staffing in hospitality. We're going to be joined by Florent Malbranche, the CEO of Brigad. Brigad recently raised 35 million euros to help industries tackle the Staffing crisis. In 2022, Brigad supported 200,000 missions to be carried out by more than 15,000 qualified self-employed professionals. in 10,000 user establishments across France and the UK Brigad enables end-to-end collaboration between hospitality businesses and qualified self-employed professionals. Also be joined by Steven Driscoll Restaurant Operations Manager at the Berkeley.


Ryan Haynes:

The Barkley located in Knightsbridge is a leading five-star hotel in London, the epitome of modern British luxury with Michelin-star dining, award-winning cocktails, a rooftop pool, a secret garden, and a luxury Spa. The team recently won best themed afternoon tea in the UK from the Afternoon Tea Awards Steven oversees 200 staff across hospitality, food and beverage.


Ryan Haynes:

Hello, Flo. Thank you ever so much for joining me today. So, the hospitality industry has really been struggling since 2020. The pandemic really blew up the issues and highlighted a lot of the problems for hotels and hospitality companies. Where are hospitality bus businesses most struggling to recruit staff today?


Florent Malbranche:

Hello, Ryan. Thank you for the invitation to the discussion today. I would, I mean, you're right, hospitality is going through a severe crisis for sure, which is taking place in the UK in France and in many, many other countries. It's also something we see actually in other industries, and that's super important to keep in mind. I mean, the talent crisis is something which is really striking today, and which is not something only for hospitality or only for healthcare, which are the two industries we're talking the most about today. There is a huge lack of attractivity when we talk about hospitality. And so, what we need to do is in a way to give back energy, to give back passion to these industries, to make sure that people want to do these jobs again, especially on the back of house, part of the business.


Florent Malbranche:

That's super important from what we see here in France, which is I would say almost the same in the UK. That's the kind of people we miss the most today.


Ryan Haynes:

Now, I mean, I'll just give a bit of explanation into your solution that you've got, but could you just summarize what it is that you offer to hospitality businesses? What's the value there?


Florent Malbranche:

So, something people are saying today is that they want, and they need new ways to collaborate between businesses and talents. And so, what we've decided to back in 2016 is a very simple solution that at the same time helps businesses to get in touch with talents, people who have some experience, some knowledge of the industry and who can do very short missions and on the hand, we offer jobs to these people, these talents, and for them, that's a new way to work in the industry. That's a new way to enjoy this industry. Again, that's really what we're trying to build.


Florent Malbranche:

And so, we're dealing with very missions, just hours or just a few days and doing this, we have businesses with their need of flexibility, And, we help people to have a more, in a way, a more balanced work life.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean, it's fascinating because obviously you've been around since 2016 and we've gone through the pandemic. Have you seen an increase in demand for Brigad?


Florent Malbranche:

Yes and no. I would say that's not the answer you were expecting, I guess. I mean if we decided to launch the company seven years ago, it's because we started the issue back in 2015. So, the problem was there before, but the consequence of the pandemic was that people started talking about even more, and that was easier for us to explain what we do, but the existed before, way before.


Ryan Haynes:

And are you seeing then, you know, a greater interest in need in people needing to fulfil more roles more regularly rather than being able to actually recruit staff on a full-time basis? Do they sort of have a balancing act between their full-time staff and these temporary mission staff?


Florent Malbranche:

I mean, what we say is that, so we are not trying to get rid of the full-time staff. That's super important. What we want, I mean, what we, the vision we have for the work market is really to find the correct balance between having your own staff, regular staff, full-time people. Because these people, they, I mean they're super important. They're the knowledge, they really represent the values of your company. So that's super crucial to have them. But at the same time, you need to, you need to manage some flexibility. You need to manage some unexpected events.


Florent Malbranche:

I mean like people going on holidays, like people being sick. So, you need to find a kind of moment and that's super important to understand. We're not here to, well, I mean full-time jobs, they're super important for the industry and for all industries. We really exist to manage the 5, 10, 15% of flexibility businesses and people need.


Ryan Haynes:

Now let's bring in Steven Driscoll, Restaurant Operations Manager here. You've been going through this process yourself and working with Brigad in order to fill some of your roles. Can you tell us about the challenges you've had actually in, in actually having the right human resources at the Berkeley in order to deliver the guest experiences that you are renowned for


Steven Driscoll:

I think like many operators, as a hotel, are experiencing a lot of quite short lead, large inquiries for events for lots of people obviously having sickness and things with, with the end of the pandemic. That was a particular challenge for us. But I think also what we experienced like most other hotels and restaurants is that, you know, a lot of, a lot of people are interested in doing full-time positions or maybe, you know, they want a lot more flexibility in, in what they're looking for. We work very well with regarding the, as Florent just said, the 10, 15% of flexibility we need of, you know, someone's sick or you know, we pick up a, a lot more rooms in the hotel all of a sudden, you know, to bring that extra person in to assist with breakfast service or you know, to help with a last-minute event in the kitchen, this kind of thing.


Steven Driscoll:

And the beauty of an app like Brigad is once you've had a few of the talents in you can kind of favourite them. So, when we do need help in the future, we can send a mission to them first and they have first refusal so we can then bring back talents that we've worked with. And it's kind of a much more flexible way of staffing, which kind of works on I think for both sides. And you're looking at the kind of talents, you know, some of them maybe students and their work fitting their studies in around their work, around their studies even. So, it's, it's kind of the flexibility that a lot of of them that are needing, but also what we are noticing in our own staff where they want that flexibility as well.


Ryan Haynes:

And is this across the different departments in food and beverage and hospitality? Is it across like chefs and serving staff?


Steven Driscoll:

Is it particular yeah, we use them in events. We have bar backs quite often in the bar. We have baristas in quite a few of the outlets. You know, we have chefs, we have food runners, you know, it really depends on, on what's happening in, in, in, in the hotel and where the, the pressure is and where we need support. But you can get pretty much any position in terms of hotels or restaurants, bars, coffee shops from, from Brigad, which is good because then you know, the team, the talents that come in are very skilled and very used to adapting themselves and working in, in different places. Obviously, they may not just work at the Barkley, they may be working in another place and then the day after they're with us.


Steven Driscoll:

So, they're very quick at adapting to the different environments and working with the team members that we have on the property.


Ryan Haynes:

I mean, as you said, it's obviously a lot of changing bandwidth required depending on the short window you might be given depending on the bookings that you get coming in there. How is recruitment changing for you overall, maybe towards some of the more permanent roles? What do you have to do really to attract the right people and, and ensure that they've got the right skills and experience needed for the Berkeley?


Steven Driscoll:

I think one thing we've learned very quickly from coming out of the pandemic is we need to move faster. We need to make it a quick process to interview and hire petitions. In the past it may have been a three or four-week process bringing in for a second interview, bringing in for a third interview. We've tried to streamline that as much as possible because obviously one, the demand is so high for workers and, we don't want to lose great talent. But also, people don't want to go through that huge process to join the company. You really want to get to know the candidates quickly and, and to get them on board quickly and immersed in the hotel I think also we are looking at the packages we offer, obviously salary being number one, but also the other benefits, you know, we are currently in discussions about, you know, gyms and obviously the canteen and the discounts that our team members get and what other benefits we can offer.


Steven Driscoll:

Obviously, world-class training programs, mental health programs and mental health wellbeing programs and things just to make sure that actually, the package we offer to our candidates is very compelling and, and is, you know, a market leader as our hotels are.


Ryan Haynes:

Yeah, it sounds like there just isn’t a lot of investment there around retention and, and learning development and ensure that they stay with you for as long as possible.


Steven Driscoll:

Absolutely. And I think, you know, the team members, you know, all want to learn, and they don't just necessarily just want to come there to obviously do the job. They want to get something out of them for them, you know, is it, you know, learning about accounting or, or more wine knowledge, this kind of thing. Everybody wants to learn and improve, and I think that's only natural for people to want to develop themselves and I think it's great that we have such an amazing training platform and, and learning and development teams in our properties that can help our teams develop.


Ryan Haynes:

Now Flo, how do you find the candidates on Brigad then? How do you recruit them to be available?


Florent Malbranche:

So, well we don't recruit them actually because they're self-employed, so they just create an account on Brigad. It's mostly word of mouth actually. They, they love the solution so they talk about it around, around them and well when you say, okay, I'm free to choose when I want to work where I want to work, the company I work with, I can spend time with my family, my kids, et cetera. I can have, I can have a second job aside usually. I mean the consequence is that you have all the people around you create an account. I'd just like to come back on what Steven said, the vision we have about Attractivity.


Florent Malbranche:

Attractivity for me is composed of three different elements. The first one, you're right, Steven is the money for sure how much money I can make for my job. The second one is the working conditions. And from what you said, you are doing super well on this one. And the third one is my career. What, what am I going to learn? How can I picture myself in 10 years? And that's also something you offer. So yeah, you shouldn't have many problems trying to attract people because that's really the three main things people are looking for today when they're looking for a job.


Ryan Haynes:

Is this a common trend you see amongst your other customers there, Flo?


Florent Malbranche:

It's, well for sure it's changing. Especially I mean I like to think that we have an impact on this because as Steven, I guess, you know, the company of course the workers, the talents they're rated, but also the companies and when they receive the offer from the business, they can see the average rating of the business. And so, if the business is bad, badly rated, then you don't want to take this mission. If the business has a great rating, then you want to do this mission. And that's in a way that's putting a bit of pressure on them to make sure they improve attractivity, they improve the money, they improve the working conditions, and they improve what they offer to the talents in general.


Ryan Haynes:

And now Steven, how would you compare maybe sort of like these staff, the self-employed staff with your full-time staff? What sort of attitudes do they have? What do they come, what value do they bring that you perhaps don't get elsewhere?


Steven Driscoll:

I think the easier, well the better comparison for me to make would be to compare them to what we would class as a traditional agency. Cuz quite often the talents we're bringing in are providing scenery things. So being a barista, being a food runner. But what I can give is a great thing which shocked me on my first few weeks of using Brigad is I've never had a traditional agency person ring up before that shift and introduce themselves and check how everything was and what uniform they needed and to check all this information prior to starting their shift. But when we start, first started working with Beard, and it's still a usual thing with new, new talents is they ring up, they introduce themselves to the manager, they check, you know, the starting time one more the time they check where they need to go to the staff entrance, they check all these details and it just shows they're a lot more experienced, a bit more professional, you know, they check if they need their bottle and opener and stuff and they obviously bring themselves ready to do the shift and you know, they take notes during the briefings and events and things to make sure that actually, they can provide the service that they were expecting to deliver.


Steven Driscoll:

And it was a nice surprise, I can tell you when that happened. And you know that kind of just shows that we're dealing with a bit more experience and a bit more awareness of the industry than maybe some literature agencies would offer us.


Ryan Haynes:

And obviously that they value the partnership there. That is important that, that for their own reputation. And are you seeing that flow in the calibre of candidates that are actually registering on the site?


Florent Malbranche:

I mean, yeah, the, well what we usually say is that we attract people, we want to attract experiences, knowledge skills, you, that's really thing we're trying to, to emphasize on, to put some light on. So yeah, I mean the, the quality of candidates is really, I would say it's going up because, especially because of this freelancing model because they're, they become their own brand so they, they, they represent themselves. They're going to go to, I mean, to visit and to work with many different businesses, they, they're going to absorb the culture, the knowledge, I mean everything they can get from these businesses.


Florent Malbranche:

And so, they're going to improve their own brand and that's really, really important in this new model, which is, I insist not a way to place the full-time staff, but a way to bring something a bit different in the company you are collaborating with. Bring some, I don't know, new energy. I was talking about energy before. It's really to, yeah, to, to bring something a bit different, not just a pair of fans, you know, something a bit more. That's really what we're trying to build here.


Ryan Haynes:

And Steven, I mean as you've had to look at your staff resourcing, where have you identified over the last few years that you've been able to make savings or bring greater efficiencies? Is that something you've been working on quite closely with your team as a whole to try to streamline the number of staff that you need, or have you been implementing new technologies in order to help ease that pressure?


Steven Driscoll:

I think it's a continual process. I think for most businesses you need to be aware of what's where you are putting your resources and obviously human resources is one of the most expensive parts of our business. So, we can't lie and say we've not been looking at this and obviously looking at processes, you know, even looking in the kitchen in terms of what dishes we have, on the menu and the mis and plus and having discussions with Chef about do we need to tweak things to make it more efficient in the kitchen. You know, do we look at, you know, how we staff the outlets or who's running the food in each outlet? All these little things where we can tweak and change and, and, and pull a little bit more just to keep the teams running that little bit slicker or you know, if you are missing that one person that you can somehow still survive the service and I think we won't be the only place that's doing that.


Steven Driscoll:

And constantly, you know, I think it's a continual process of how we can work a bit smarter and not harder and, and how we can make sure of course, that the guests are still happy at the end of the day.


Ryan Haynes:

Absolutely. And seeming as if you won the best themed afternoon tea in 2023 in the UK, you must be doing particularly well. Congratulations on that by the way.


Steven Driscoll:

Thank you.


Ryan Haynes:

Well, Steven, thank you ever so much for those insights there, on Berkeley, and how you've been managing staff and flow. Thank you so much for the insights around regard and how hospitality companies can make the most of the availability that they have in their staff resources.


Florent Malbranche:

Thank you, Ryan. Thank you so much.


Ryan Haynes:

So that was Flo Malbranche, CEO of Brigad and Steven Driscoll Restaurant Operations Manager at the Berkeley, looking at staffing and recruitment as part of our Mini series on Travel, Market Life. Check out the other episodes on LinkedIn or any of the podcast channels to find out what they have to say about senior positions and also recruiting at the ground level. Thanks so much. I'm your host Ryan Haynes. Ciao for now.

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